When I was living in this shared house privacy was available and my door did lock, but that never seemed to stop people knocking or sending me texts. The walls were thin, I could hear most of what was happening in the living and dining rooms downstairs. Otherwise, you could see into my window from the garden and if I was home and awake during the day I had the shutters open to make the most of the sunlight. After what happened I did try and stay away from the people I lived with. I had the advantage that I was in mourning for my Grandmother and that I was a student, but this wasn’t always enough.
When I was living in the shared house where I was attacked privacy was available and my door did lock, but that never seemed to stop people knocking or calling or texting me. The walls were thin, I could hear most of what was happening in the living and dining rooms downstairs, this worked both ways and I learnt to leave my phone on silent on my bed so they won’t hear it vibrate if I was in there. Otherwise, you could see into my window from the garden and if I was home and awake during the day I normally had the shutters open to make the most of the sunlight. After what happened I did try to stay away from the people I lived with. I had the advantage that I was in mourning for my Grandmother and that I was a student, but this wasn’t always enough.
My instant reaction which I think was probably the worst I could have had was denial. Part of this was blaming myself, saying that I hadn’t said no loudly enough. That my fighting wasn’t effective enough to have been seen as fighting. I reasoned and I thought that if I didn’t say anything to anyone it would stay between my attacker and myself. People live with secrets all the time and I thought I could cope. I was ashamed and embarrassed that this had happened to me and I didn’t want to let it ruin the friendships I had started to make in the shared house. So although I avoided them when I could I had a hard time when everyone was downstairs having fun, especially if it was a weekend or a day nobody had work tomorrow. I tried to act my way through it, if I smiled and joined in they wouldn’t know. I was suspicious of Myra at one point because she would either put me with my attacker or ask about other things he’d done with other people. She was making jabs and would always say not to be jealous. In reality, I would have loved him to move onto someone else even though that sounds selfish. My secret was heavy and on evenings like these, there was normally alcohol around. That made it more bearable and from there I started buying a bottle of off-brand martini every week or two. Sometimes it was cheap rum with sugar and lemon juice, it was always an alcoholic drink though. I would ask for a few minutes to get ready if someone came looking for me, but really I’d be drinking something. I had a pitifully low alcohol tolerance back then and it would just make me sleepy and I could claim I was overworked and I needed to go to bed. It worked. Avoidance was a good technique and I relied heavily on it. I had some really messed up reasoning at the time, things like if he didn’t like me it wouldn’t have happened. I also tried saying at least someone found me attractive. I know now that rapists don’t look for pretty people, they look for weak and vulnerable people. I was depressed, having very dark thoughts apart from when I had a distraction like work. I didn’t want to eat and I would make the excuse that I didn’t have money to. I don’t know if it is anorexia if you’re just not hungry but not trying to lose weight. I was full of self-blame and guilt that was eating me up. My coping mechanisms were destructive. Stay out for as long as possible, drink to forget if I could. I shut myself away so nobody could say anything to me. Self-harm.
When I eventually confessed to two housemates what had happened everything went wrong. My aggressor had spent his time telling a false story while I had been avoiding everyone, he had made it out as me consenting. He made up other incidents saying they were all consensual and left a trail of lies the others so readily believed. He isolated me from the housemates while I was avoiding them so I would have a hard time breaking back into the group. I know I was getting depressed not long after I was attacked because my anorexia kicked in, I was self-harming again and I was all around miserable. I felt consumed with guilt even though I was the victim and then when Myra started blaming me for it I just let her. It ate me up. It fitted with the blame I had been putting on myself already.
It has taken a long time but now I am calm. I feel at peace with what has happened, ready to take the next steps. Although I still drink in excess sometimes. I still cry about what happened, sometimes I still blame myself. Myra’s words marked me and sometimes I call myself a whore the way she called me a whore.